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Posts tagged: idaho state board of education

Mathias chosen as state board’s new chief academic officer

Chris Mathias has been hired as the new chief academic officer for the Idaho State Board of Education, replacing Selena Grace, who left in September for a post at Idaho State University. Mathias was policy manager in the office of the president at Boise State University; he’s also a former law professor and Coast Guard veteran. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from BSU, a law degree from Vermont Law School, and a Ph.D in law and public policy from Northeastern University.

Don Soltman, state board president, said, “Chris will be a great addition to the team. We are looking forward to working with him to advance the initiatives underway to improve education in Idaho.” The position pays $92,000 a year.


Otter wants applications for state Board of Ed opening by Dec. 9

Gov. Butch Otter is asking anyone interested in the opening on the state Board of Education to apply by Dec. 9, a week from next Monday. The opening comes after Otter appointed board member Ken Edmunds to head the state Department of Labor; the appointee will serve out Edmunds' term, which runs through March 1, 2018. Otter noted that state law says the best applicant must be chosen for the position, without regard to “locality, occupation, party affiliation or religion.”

“The goal in all my appointments to the Board is to find members who can view Idaho’s education system holistically, putting aside parochial connections to any single institution and instead focusing on our statewide needs and opportunities for improvement,” Otter said in a statement.  “Our colleges and universities have the responsibility to help prepare Idaho’s workforce for the future. The Board of Education is charged with ensuring those institutions have the tools and the oversight they need to work collaboratively toward our statewide goals.”

Otter's choice to fill the vacancy would be subject to confirmation by the state Senate. To apply for the vacancy, send a resume and a letter of interest to the governor's office, to the attention of Anne Beebe.

Some state Board of Ed members worry that boosting public school funding will hurt higher ed

Some members of Idaho’s State Board of Education, meeting today in Lewiston, were sharply critical of state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna’s proposal for a 5.9 percent funding increase for public schools next year, Clark Corbin of Idaho EdNews reports, with board member Bill Goesling terming it “unacceptable” and saying it would come at the expense of the state’s colleges and universities. “I think at some point the board is going to have stand up and say, ‘This is not going to work for higher education,’ ” Goesling said.

The public school budget proposal is aimed at phasing in the recommendations of a 31-member education reform task force that included four state board members. It doesn’t address higher ed funding.

State Board member Milford Terrell said, “The fact is these numbers are staggering when you look at where we are going and what we are doing and who is going to be robbed in this whole spectrum of moneys.” But member Richard Westerberg, who headed the task force, responded, “I don’t think anyone on the board or in the room would argue that we have adequately funded K-12 education.” You can read Corbin’s full report here.

Public comment sought on school rule changes, from cursive instruction to PE as grad requirement

The Idaho State Board of Education is taking public comments on six proposed rule changes, on everything from requiring Idaho school kids to get cursive writing instruction to adding two credits of PE as a high school graduation requirement. Idaho Education News has a rundown here on the rule changes and how to comment; there’s a public hearing set for Oct. 8, and the state board is scheduled to consider the rules at its November meeting. Comments will be accepted through the end of October.

All six rule changes were proposed by state schools Superintendent Tom Luna; you can read his office’s summary here of the changes and public comment opportunities. In addition to cursive and PE, the rules address ISAT testing, an adjustment to math and science requirements, teacher education and endorsements, and an in-service math training requirement for teachers.

State Board backs UI law school expansion in Boise, rejects UI Law enrollment cap

The State Board of Education, in a special meeting this morning, has voted 5-3 in favor of adding a second year to the University of Idaho’s law school program in Boise, which currently offers only the third year of law school; you can read my full story here at The vote came after much debate, during which past opponents of the move said they’d support it if it came along with a cap on total UI law school enrollment.

“I certainly have felt that the quality of the program, both in terms of instruction, in terms of enrollment, etc., would be improved by being in the Boise market where it’s so close to the center of state government, and so close to the business community in the Boise area, and also legal professionals in the Boise area,” said board member Rod Lewis. “It’s not their intent that by doing so, they would significantly expand the size of the school.” He proposed a cap on total law school enrollment of 360, which is slightly over the average enrollment for the past five years, to accompany the funding.

UI President Don Burnett said, “We do think that the second year program (in Boise) will make the law school more attractive and more competitive. I do think the principal effect will be quality and giving more access to students in areas where they want to get either specialty training or get their training at a place advantageous to themselves and their families, economically and professionally.” But, he said, “Our preference is not to have a cap. … Our preference is that we be given the same sound discretion that other academic units have, rather than a cap, even though the 360 is a figure we could live with.”

Adding the second year in Boise would cost the state about $400,000 a year. Board member Richard Westerberg said, “Frankly, I’m still conflicted, because what we’re really talking about here is almost another million-dollar annual subsidy to produce lawyers. … If we actually got another million dollars going forward to spend on something, is the highest and best use to produce attorneys?” But he said he’d support the move with the cap attached.

Lewis said there’s an oversupply of attorneys nationwide, but Burnett said those statistics don’t count the 30 percent of UI law graduates who choose to go into another profession, rather than practice law. Board members noted that Concordia Law School, a private law school, has opened in Boise and already attracted more than 70 students. “Concordia is showing us that there is a demand to have this kind of education in Boise,” Lewis said, adding that he believes the UI law school should be moved to Boise. Burnett said Boise is the best location for students in some fields, and Moscow is the best for others; he said Idaho is a net importer of attorneys, with only 28 percent of those admitted to the bar in Idaho in recent years having graduated from the U of I. He added, “We are nowhere near saturating the legal education market. We are still admitting only about half of the applicants,” Burnett said.

Board member Emma Atchley called a cap “a very bad precedent,” and board member Bill Gosling suggested it might even violate the Idaho Constitution’s requirement that the UI law school provide legal education throughout the state. Atchley said, “I guess I’m rather amazed that we would even take a step of this nature.”

Gosling made a substitute motion to back funding for the second-year Boise program with no mention of a cap; it passed 5-3, with just Lewis, Westerberg and member Ken Edmunds dissenting. Those voting in favor were Gosling, Atchley, Don Soltman, Tom Luna and Milford Terrell. The proposal now goes to the governor and the Legislature.

Idaho grad requirements for math, science now don’t cover computers, engineering; rule change in works

It turns out that when Idaho increased its high school graduations for math and science to require three years of each, the definition of classes that qualified didn't include advanced engineering or computer science classes. As a result, students who wanted to take those classes only got elective credit, and didn't fulfill their math and science grad requirements. Now, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and the Idaho Technology Council have partnered to propose changes to the state rule to define dual credit engineering, dual credit computer science, or Advanced Placement (AP) computer science as eligible for the math and science credits.

The State Board of Education gave the rule change initial approval at its meeting in Pocatello yesterday; now, it'll go out for public comment, then return for final approval in November. It still would need legislative review, and wouldn't take effect until the 2014-2015 school year. Jay Larsen, president of the Idaho Technology Council, said it makes sense to encourage students to take these courses in high school to prepare them for future careers in STEM fields. Luna said, “Often, students have interest in STEM courses, but are not willing to give up electives to take these classes. By expanding our math and science requirements, we will open up a world of high-tech opportunities to every high school student.” Click below for Luna's full news release on the proposed rule change.

State Board of Ed adopts policy to protect privacy of student data

Idaho's state Board of Education adopted a new policy today requiring that the privacy of student data be carefully protected, as the state ramps up its Statewide Longitudinal Data System, which has been years in the works to help better track student progress. Here's the board's new policy:

The privacy of all student level data that is collected by the SLDS will be protected. A list of all data fields (but not the data within the fields) collected by the SLDS will be publicly available. Only student identifiable data that is required by law will be shared with the federal government.”

Don Soltman, board president, said, “The board recognizes it is essential to provide all the safeguards necessary to ensure that student data are handled with the greatest care,” and said the board is “committed to protecting the privacy of individual student data and will continue to closely monitor the collection and use of all data.” Click below for the board's full announcement.

State board extends contracts for three university presidents, grants them 3% raises

Idaho’s State Board of Education, meeting today in Twin Falls, approved 3 percent salary increases for the presidents of Boise State University, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College; the board also extended the current contract term for each of them by an additional year. The new salaries: BSU, President Bob Kustra: $353,432; ISU, President Arthur Vailas, $340,027; LCSC, President Tony Fernandez, $170,884.

State board approves new contracts for head basketball coaches at BSU, UI

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The men's basketball coaches at Boise State and the University of Idaho have new contracts. The Idaho Board of Education on Thursday approved contracts for BSU coach Leon Rice and UI coach Don Verlin. Rice's five-year deal pays him a base salary of $482,110 next season, with 3 percent raises each year. It also includes bonuses for the team's success both on the court and in the classroom, including a $15,000 bonus if the Broncos win the Mountain West Conference tournament championship. Verlin's three-year deal has his base pay starting at $156,832 and increasing to $169,629 by the final year. He will receive $60,000 in media payments each season and is eligible for bonuses based on his team's success.

Lawmakers bemoan shortage of school counselors

Idaho lawmakers are unhappy that the state’s schools superintendent has resisted moves to add more school counselors to help boost the number of students going on to higher education. In 2010-2011, Idaho had 489 students for every counselor, above the national average of 471 and nearly twice the recommended national standard of 250 – which only three states meet. Washington’s student-to-counselor ratio is even higher, at 510. The recommendations to trim Idaho’s student-to-counselor ratio and add a statewide coordinator for all K-12 school counselors were made in a report from the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations in 2012 as part of an array of moves aimed at encouraging more Idaho kids to go on to further education after high school. But state schools Superintendent Tom Luna rejected both school-counselor recommendations.

“The responsibility for a college-going culture should be all educators in a school, not focused on one person,” Luna wrote in a response to the report, delivered to lawmakers along with a follow-up report Wednesday. “While counselors provide excellent service, it would be difficult to add enough employees to make this recommendation meaningful at this time.”

He cited an Idaho school district where every Friday, “the teachers and staff members proudly sport a T-shirt or sweatshirt from their alma mater,” saying, “This is more than just a T-shirt. It is the beginning of a conversation throughout the day, where every teacher and staff member engages students in a discussion about the importance of post-secondary education. … This is just one example I have seen that could easily be duplicated across the state and that ensures every staff member is involved in the success of students after high school – not just the school counselor.”

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, took issue with Luna’s response, as did Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow. “I’m concerned,” Mortimer said. “I think we have to look at our counselors and their roles – I believe they may be doing too much administrative issues, and not enough counseling. … It’s a critical portion of getting our students to go on.” The state Board of Education has set increasing Idaho’s dismally low number of students who go on to any type of higher education after high school as its top goal. You can read my full story here at

State Board OKs tuition hikes, but trims those for BSU, U of I

Idaho's state Board of Education today approved tuition increases for the state's colleges and universities, but trimmed the requests from both the University of Idaho and Boise State University. The U of I was approved for a 5 percent increase, short of the 5.9 percent it requested; and BSU for 6.9 percent, short of the 8.6 percent requested. “The board recognizes the need to balance access and affordability with the ability to maintain quality programs and facilities at our public institutions,” said Board President Ken Edmunds.ISU got its requested 4.5 percent increase; LCSC got its requested 4 percent; and Eastern Idaho Technical College got its requested 4.9 percent. Click below for the state board's full announcement; you can read a full report here from AP reporter Hannah Furfaro. BSU issued a news release about how the increase fits into its plans to shift toward charging tuition on a per-credit basis; you can read it here.

State Board of Ed meeting in Moscow today, considering higher ed tuition increases

The State Board of Education is meeting in Moscow on the University of Idaho campus today, and considering tuition and fee increase proposals for state colleges and universities. The U of I is requesting a 5.9 percent increase in tuition and fees next year; BSU, 8.6 percent; ISU, 4.5 percent; Eastern Idaho Technical College, 4.9 percent; and Lewis-Clark State College, 4 percent.

Since fiscal year 2009, state funding for the four-year institutions, UI, BSU, ISU and LCSC, has dropped by $41.1 million, while total tuition and fee revenue has increased by $74.7 million. So far this morning, U of I officials and student leaders have spoken out in support of the proposed increase; you can watch live here. State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna said, “I don’t think we talk much about what a bargain it is to go to our universities here in Idaho, when you look at even the surrounding states, what they charge.”

With the proposed increases, full-time resident tuition and fees for a year at the U of I next year would be $6,580; at BSU, $6,392; at ISU, $6,344; at EITC, $2,122; and at LCSC, $5,784.

State Board dumps ‘fractional ADA’ on 8-0 vote, after repealing online grad rule

After its 7-1 vote to repeal the requirement that every Idaho student take two online courses to graduate from high school, the State Board of Education today voted unanimously, with no discussion, to repeal its rules covering “fractional ADA,” a funding scheme that was part of Proposition 3 that automatically diverted state funds from school districts to online course providers, if students opted to take up to half their high school course load online, whether or not their districts approved.

That was part of the “Students Come First” reform plan's push for a new focus on online learning; it also included a failed proposal to provide laptop computers to every Idaho high school student, at a cost of more than $182 million over the next eight years. Unlike the online graduation requirement, the board had no choice on this matter; legally, once the “Students Come First” laws were repealed, the board's fractional ADA rules had to go, too. “Fractional ADA” refers to Average Daily Attendance, which is the basis on which school districts receive their state funding, as it's tied through a complex formula to the number of students; the law diverted a fraction of the school district's funding, depending on how many online courses a student chose to take, to the online course provider.

You can read my full story here at on today's state board action on Students Come First.

Listen live to state board meeting…

Only state Board of Education member Milford Terrell is attending today's special board meeting in person; all other board members, including state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, are participating by phone. Members of the public who would like to listen in by phone can call (888) 285-4585, and enter public participant code 352813.

State Board approves UI acquisition of McCall campus through land swap, bond

Idaho's State Board of Education has unanimously approved the University of Idaho's purchase of its McCall campus, which is along the shore of Payette Lake adjacent to Ponderosa State Park. It's currently endowment land managed by the state Land Board, and the UI has leased it for 65 years. The site includes the university's forestry camp and other education programs through its College of Natural Resources.

The Land Board raised the lease rate this year from about $50,000 a year to about $250,000, prompting the university decide to buy the land. Developed over the last several years, the complex transaction includes a land exchange. A private party, IW4 LLC, plans to acquire the property from the Department of Lands through a land swap for commercial property, and then sell it to the UI at its current appraised value, $6.1 million.

The UI plans to draw on its internal reserves to cover acquisition costs, and then reimburse the reserves from a future bond issue; it also is fundraising, and hoping to reduce the size of the future bond issue with major gifts. It's forecasting that the university will end up saving money on the deal, because its debt service on the bond should be less than the $250,000 annual lease payments.

The board is gathered for a special meeting this morning; among items on its agenda are possible repeal of the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online classes to graduate from high school, now that voters have rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws that proposed the online grad requirement.

‘Fractional ADA’ funding scheme diverting school funds to online providers also up for repeal Monday

There also are two other rule changes on the State Board of Education's agenda for Monday's special meeting that are a result of the rejection of the “Students Come First” laws by voters: One regarding “fractional ADA,” and another regarding teacher and principal evaluations. The agenda calls for fractional ADA to be repealed, while the evaluation issue may wait for input from stakeholders.

“Fractional ADA” refers to Average Daily Attendance, which is the basis on which school districts receive their state funding, as it's tied through a complex formula to the number of students. Under “fractional ADA,” which was repealed in Proposition 3 by voters last week, a portion of Idaho school districts' state funding is automatically diverted to an online course provider, if students or parents choose to take some of their courses online. The “Students Come First” laws allowed students to make that choice for up to half their high school course load, with or without the permission of their school district.

State Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney said that rule is legally required to be repealed, now that the state law authorizing the payments scheme has been repealed by voters. State Board Chairman Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls said, “That actually was the subject of discussion many times with superintendents and administrators and even with teachers, trying to understand what impact that had on them. It has a much deeper impact that I originally thought.” Said Edmunds, “The funding issues are very significant.”

The original “Students Come First” laws passed in 2011 allowed students to choose to take their entire high school course load online at state expenses under the fractional ADA formula; a 2012 revision cut that back to half their course load.

State Board sets special meeting for Monday, could repeal online graduation requirement

The Idaho State Board of Education has set a special meeting for Monday, at which it could decide to repeal a rule requiring all Idaho students to take at least two online courses to graduate from high school, now that the “Students Come First” law that directed the board to make the rule has been repealed by voters.

“There isn't a legal requirement, because the board has the authority to set administrative rules and to set graduation requirements,” said board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney. “That having been said, the board is well aware of the outcome of the election and this board has been very in tune with public input.”

The board's agenda includes a pending rule to modify the graduation requirement, removing controversial requirements that at least one of the courses be “asynchronous,” meaning the course is delivered entirely online and teachers and students participate on their own schedules. That requirement drew opposition from school boards, school administrators and Idaho school districts; state lawmakers voted in in their last legislative session to do away with it.

The board has two options on Monday, Whitney said: Approve the pending change to the rule, or reconsider the whole rule and do away with the online graduation requirement. The board's agenda packet for Monday's meeting includes this note: “The part of the question posed to the voters in Proposition 3 clearly included the repeal of online learning as a graduation requirement. While the Board has the authority to promulgate rules setting minimum high school graduation requirements, the failure of proposition three removed the statutory requirement that they include online learning for the class of 2016.”

State Board votes 4-3 for second year of UI law program in Boise

The Idaho State Board of Education, meeting in Lewiston today, voted 4-3 in favor of offering a second year of law school in Boise through the University of Idaho; currently, the UI College of Law offers just one year - the third year - of its law program in Boise. Under the proposal, if lawmakers in their session that starts in January approve, the second year of law school also would be offered in Boise, starting in the fall of 2013. That would require lawmakers approving a $400,000 appropriation for the program.

If they do, law students still would go to Moscow for the first year of the program, but would have the option of learning in Boise for the second and third years. Here's the vote breakdown in today's board vote:

Voting in favor: Board members Emma Atchley of Ashton, Bill Goesling of Moscow, Tom Luna and Don Soltman of Twin Lakes.
Voting against: Board members Rod Lewis of Boise, Richard Westerberg of Preston, and Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls.

Board member Milford Terrell was absent.

State Board of Ed rejects changes to college student health insurance mandate

A proposal to amend the state Board of Education's policy regarding required health insurance for state university students failed today, when a motion to approve it for a first reading failed to even get a second. The changes would have included lifting a requirement that state universities offer insurance to students, and lifting a requirement that students obtaining their own insurance get policies at least equal to school-offered plans.

Boise State University argued that 85 percent of its students obtain insurance elsewhere, a number that's been rising, and with climbing premiums, it's becoming too expensive for the school to be in the insurance business. Instead, officials there said they'd like to focus on helping that 15 percent of their students to find appropriate insurance plans from other providers. BSU said it still would offer school-based insurance for student athletes and international students, because of other requirements.

However, the University of Idaho reported that an increasing number of students there are choosing to go with the school's own insurance plan.  And Idaho State University Vice President Jim Fletcher urged against lifting the requirement for school-based plans, saying that while just 29 percent of ISU students now choose the school's student health insurance, among “lower income students over 50 percent are taking that, and more are dependent on that.” At Lewis-Clark State College, 28 percent are covered by the school's plan, a number that hasn't changed much in recent years.

Fletcher said, “We do believe that these changes would have the net effect of watering down our coverage.” Board member Rod Lewis said, “I personally have some real concerns about what it means for students. … We're not making available the last-resort ability to get coverage.”

Eastern Idaho Technical College requested to be exempted from the insurance requirement entirely, arguing that it's more like a two-year community college; Idaho's community colleges aren't subject to the state board's requirement, because they are locally run, property-tax supported schools with their own elected boards. The board voted 4-2 against granting EITC the exemption, with just members Bill Gosling and Emma Atchley backing the exemption. State board staffer Matt Freeman said afterward, “The board just feels very strongly they want students insured.”

State Board to consider changes to student health insurance mandate at special meeting today

The state Board of Education will again consider changes to its policy requiring that full-time public college and university students have health insurance, in a special meeting today that starts at 1 p.m. The Lewiston Tribune reports ( that the board took up the issue in April, rejecting a request by some schools to suspend the rule for a year because of sharp increases in insurance premiums; if the board reverses course, students wouldn't be freed from the requirement until next fall because health care contracts for the current year are already in place. Some of Idaho's universities sought to suspend the requirement last year, the paper reports, as insurance premiums spiked by as much as 46 percent with fewer students opting for school policies and instead remaining on their parent's insurance plans.

Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney told the Associated Press that the changes under consideration would remove the portion of the board's policy that requires students who don't have health insurance to purchase a policy through their school, and eliminate the part of the policy that requires students who are already insured to have a policy that is equivalent to the coverage they would receive through their respective university or college; the requirement for all students to have health insurance would remain in place.


For those who want to listen in, the teleconference number for the special board meeting is (877) 807-5706, and the public participant code is 556261. The matter is the second of two items on the agenda; you can read the proposed policy changes here.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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